Do you ever change your writing to please people?
I didn’t think I did. I thought I was writing my story, my way. Until I went to a writer’s conference. It was the 2011 NYC SCBWI Winter Conference. It was a very big deal. I paid the extra money to have my work critiqued by two top editors from top houses. It wasn’t my first big conference, but it was the first time I was getting one on one feedback. To say I was nervous would be a major understatement. I was terrified, but I went. The way it was set up was the editor was at a round table with you and five others of your peers. You each had three minutes to read your first page, then receive critique from both the editor and your peers. There were two sessions like this, one in the morning, then another in the afternoon. After the morning session I went back to my room and cried. Not that the editor was cruel, or that she didn’t like my work. It was just the first time I saw I wasn’t the only good writer out there, and they all wanted it as bad as I did. I went to the afternoon session without much hope of anything. That’s probably why I was so surprised when something amazing happened. Here’s how it went: I was seated right next to the editor from Simon & Schuster, who incidentally was currently working on the Hush Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick, a Nephilim story. So I knew right off my chances were slim. And they were. She told me even before I read my page that she would not be representing me. The amazing came later. One of the other writers read from her page. It was a middle grade story about a personified bear family. When the writer was done reading, I leaned over and spoke to the editor and told her I could see the story with simple font, broken every few pages with loose pencil sketches of the scenes. The editor smiled and said that was exactly what she was thinking. It was an epiphany moment for me. This woman was one of the top editors from one of the top houses, and I, at that moment, was her equal.That minute was life-changing for me. I am a woman of faith, and I went there hoping, praying, for God’s direction for me, and I got it. I knew I didn’t want to just write books, I wanted to publish them, too; starting with mine. Later that year, my husband and I started Black and White Publishing Co.
What does that have to do with the question at the beginning? Everything. I went home from that conference with plans to work on my book. What surprised me was how much I changed. I didn’t realize how much I had censored myself, how much of the story I had left out. After that conference I decided I would never do that again.That decision has made all the difference.